British man who committed spate of thefts in Singapore jailed 26 months

James John Watson was jailed for 26 months after committing theft on two trips to Singapore.
James John Watson was jailed for 26 months after committing theft on two trips to Singapore.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A 59-year-old British man with joint and heart ailments came to Singapore twice to steal - so that he could raise money for his pregnant girlfriend's medical expenses in Cambodia.

He made off with nearly $12,400 in total, but was caught when a victim activated an app on his stolen Apple iPad to track the device's location.

On Thursday (April 21), James John Watson was jailed for 26 months after he pleaded guilty to seven charges, with another nine counts considered in sentencing.

The 16 charges were for theft, committing mischief to property, possession of housebreaking tools, fraudulent possession of property, drug possession and using abusive language against a public servant.

A district court heard that on the night of July 9 last year, Watson, who lives in Cambodia, came to Singapore and stayed at InnCrowd Backpackers' Hostel in Dunlop Street. He checked out the next morning, at about 11.15am, but remained at the hostel.

At about 11.25am, he broke into a locker that was used by a Swiss tourist, and stole $3,218 worth of the latter's belongings.

Watson left Singapore about 2-1/2 hours later.

Less than a month later, he was back in Singapore.

He arrived on the evening of Aug 3 and went to the Fitness First gym at Handy Road the next morning. He told staff there that he was an overseas member of the fitness chain, but they did not allow him to use the gym facilities - because he did not have any membership proof. Watson was, however, allowed to check out the gym facilities, unaccompanied.

He went into the men's locker room at about 11.20am and broke into five lockers.

Just 10 minutes later, he left the gym with $4,500 worth of loot.

Two days later, Watson struck again.

This time, he went to Energia Fitness Club at Riverside Point in Merchant Road.

At about 12.20pm on Aug 6, he asked staff there about membership rates, before being allowed to check out the gym facilities unaccompanied.

Watson then went into the men's locker room and broke into four lockers.

He left the gym about 20 minutes later with loot worth about $4,600.

But one of his victims, Mr Gaston Ng Han Wei, 33, tracked him down. Mr Ng remotely activated the Find My iPhone app on his stolen iPad and traced it to Dunlop Street. He then went there with his cousin and a member of staff from the gym.

At about 3.40pm, Mr Ng spotted Waston and called the police. Policemen found Watson at about 4.15pm with house-breaking instruments in his possession. He had three crowbars, a screwdriver and pocket knife.

Watson also had a ziploc bag containing 1.79g of cannabis.

Separately, while warded at Singapore General Hospital under police custody four days later, Watson also hurled vulgarities at a policeman.

In pleading for leniency, Watson's lawyer Henry Lim, assigned to him under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, said his client suffered two heart attacks after his arrest, and is diagnosed with ischemic heart disease.

Watson also suffers from osteoarthritis, and has undergone surgery for two hip replacements and one knee replacement.